Sunday, March 1, 2009

Weekly Geeks - March 1, 2009

Political and Social Issues

This week we are going to rewind to May 2008 when Dewey picked one of my favorite Weekly Geeks themes: Political and Social Issues. Since we have many new members to the Weekly Geeks Event, I thought it might be fun to revisit this fantastic theme.

Here is how to play:

1. Choose a political or social issue that matters to you. If you were a Weekly Geek last May and already did this theme, pick a different theme than the one you did at that time.

2. Educate readers about your topic by telling us a little about it and any involvement you've had in this issue.

3. Find books addressing your issue; they do not necessarily have to be books you’ve read. They can be non fiction, fiction, poetry, etc...Give a little synopsis of the book or a link to the description.

4. Use images which you feel illustrate your topic. You can be as creative as you like - have fun with the theme and show us your passion!

I have to admit that I found this week's Weekly Geeks topic to be extremely difficult for me to write about. I've discovered that I'm not very passionate (and definitely not very knowledgable) about any major social issue! Of course I do have my fair share of opinions on some pretty important (and controversial) social issues; however, I'm not entirely sure I feel comfortable talking about them here.

At this point in my life, I find that I tend to focus on "micro" issues rather than the "macro" ones -- I am much more involved with the needs and issues of my family and friends. The first thing that popped into my mind that I could actually write about is children with life threatening food allergies. Because I have a child with life-threatening food allergies, this subject is very near and dear to my heart. It is something that is always on my mind and a major part of my life.

However when I checked the link to social issues, I saw that food allergies wasn't listed (no big surprise there.) I decided that I was going to "pretend" that it was one anyway because it is important to a heck of a lot of people, especially our family and friends; but my husband laughed at me and suggested I talk about something else. As I write this post, I keep telling myself that I need to talk about breast cancer because that is another subject that I feel touches every one's life, but I keep coming back to my food allergy issue.

So, I'm going to write a little bit about food allergies; and I apologize if I'm not playing entirely by the rules this week, but it's the best I can do!

My son was diagnosed with food allergies when he was just a couple of months old. To make a long story short, he had terrible eczema so I took him to an allergist and we discovered that he was allergic to dairy, eggs, peanuts and tree nuts. A few years later, we discovered that he was not only allergic to the foods listed above, but he was also allergic to shellfish and loads of environmental things such as dogs, trees, dust mites, etc. I started to read everything I could find about food allergies and just prayed that he would eventually outgrow some of them. While the allergist could tell me that he was very allergic to these items, she couldn't tell me exactly what his reaction would be. We kind of had to assume the worst and carry an epi-pen everywhere.

It was only a matter of time until we discovered that he had life-threatening allergies to tree nuts and dairy (and we still don't know what else because he hasn't been exposed to them.) I can't express how scary it is to see your child having an allergic reaction and have to rush them to the hospital. I understand that a lot of people think all the rules about peanut-free schools and airplanes are an over-reaction, but I doubt they've ever seen a child whose eyes swell shut, or one who stops breathing, or one who starts to violently throw up just to get the allergen out of their system -- it's terrifying!

Food allergies are becoming a huge problem in our society, and it is beginning to touch every one's lives. For some (largely unknown) reason, children with life-threatening food allergies are on the rise; and I would be surprised if you didn't know at least one person living with this problem. What's even more worrisome to me is that researchers are finding that children are not outgrowing food allergies like they once thought. Schools are being forced to address this growing concern -- some schools (like my son's preschool are totally peanut-free) while other schools have separate areas for "allergy kids" to eat. Either way, schools are now being required to have written plans for handling this situation. Daycare providers, babysitters, and parents who have these children over for play dates must also be aware of the severity of this condition. And even other young children must understand that something as simple as a peanut butter cookie or a glass of milk can be deadly to their friend.

I feel fortunate that there are so many wonderful resources out there as well as support groups for people who want to learn more about food allergies. One website I recommend is Kids With Food Allergies. This website provides allergy alerts, recipes, forums, other allergy links, etc. to help educate people.

I have reviewed a few books on this blog which deal with with food allergies. All of these books are helpful and I highly recommend them:

Summary: "What Else is to Eat?" features recipes for foods that everyone can enjoy, whether they have food allergies or not. Main dishes, side dishes, breakfast foods, and baked goods are all included. With an emphasis on fast and easy recipes that use "normal," easy-to-find ingredients, this book is designed for today's busy lifestyles. -- Plumtree Press

Novel - MATTERS OF FAITH by Kristy Kiernan -- review
Summary: At age twelve, Marshall Tobias saw his best friend killed by a train. It was then that he began his search for faith—delving into one tradition, then discarding it for another. His parents, however, have little time for spiritual contemplation. Their focus has been on his little sister Megan, who suffers from severe food allergies.

Now Marshall is home from college with his first real girlfriend, but there is more to Ada than meets the eye—including her beliefs about the evils of medical intervention. What follows is a crisis that tests not only faith, but the limits of family, forgiveness, and our need to believe. -- Berkley

Children's Book - THE PEANUT PICKLE by Jessica Ureel - review
Summary: Your child has a peanut allergy. Now what? Coping with severe food allergies can be overwhelming, especially for a young child. Find out how Ben learns to take control of his peanut allergy in school, at parties, with friends, at t-ball practice and during holidays. Kids will learn to speak up about their allergy and how to deal with difficult and awkward situations that inevitably arise when a child has a life-threatening food allergy. -- Barnes and Noble


Robin said...

What an interesting post! Each year I have students with serious allergies, including peanut allergies, and so this was very informative. I'm going to order a copy of The Peanut Pickle for my class library because I think the kids would be very interested in it. And I appreciate the info on the web site. Thanks!

bermudaonion said...

This is a great post, Julie. I don't know much about food allergies because none of Vance's friends had any until he went to college. A friend of his was at his apartment a year and a half ago and had a severe allergy to something he ate and they had to call an ambulance. It terrified Vance. I hope they discover ways to help people cope with this.

Frances said...

This IS a big issue, and a great topic to write about. Thank you for all the info supplied. We have children in the school where I teach with food allergies and it always amazes me how some people (usually other parents sending things in) can be dismissive of these allergies even going so far as to suggest they are manufactured. Time to recognize the growing number of allergy problems in our children and why this might be occurring. Thanks for the great post!

Summer Fae said...

Great post!

You are right about people not understanding food allergies. My little brother is allergic to ginger. He went to a birthday party and the lady had gingerbread cookies. She asked if he wanted one and he said that he couldn't because he was allergic to ginger. The lady said not to worry that there was not any ginger in them. Needless to say he was in the ER because of his reaction.

I really enjoyed reading your blog.

Red lady-Bonnie said...

Kudos to you Julie for writing this post!! I disagree with the list, I believe that Life threatening food allergies are a social issue. As I've commented here before and shared on my own blog, my son has life threatening food allergies as well..peanuts and tree nuts. He deals with this issue every day and we are constantly educating those around us. We are always on guard, have to carry epipens and our medicine kit everywhere. Some people are wonderful and supportive, others just don't get it and consider children with food allergies an inconvenience. Education is the key and opening hearts and minds to the seriousness of the children and adults who have to live with this. Thanks for addressing this!!

Dorte H said...

This may seem a minor issue to some people, but what is life-threatening to a child must certainly change the lives of its parents!

Best wishes to you and your family!

Rikki said...

I can't even begin to imagine how hard it must be to get your child through childhood until they are aware of what they may eat and what they mustn't. Not mentioning the extra time you need to shop and prepare meals for them. This is a HUGE social issue and must be addressed much more thoroughly. Thanks for this post.

Amy said...

I think this is a great post, Julie, thank you so much for sharing!

Marg said...

Thank you for posting this. My son is allergic to tree nuts, and so we too have to deal with carrying an epipen around every where we go. So far, we have been lucky and the hardest part of dealing with the allergy has been keeping track of the epipen, but there is a concern everytime we go somewhere.

The other thing that has happened is that my son is now afraid to try new foods, just in case!

Interestingly my son is not allergic to peanuts, only tree nuts. I think that people always assume that means peanuts, but don't think about things like hazelnuts etc which is the thing that so far has triggered his worst reactions.

S. Krishna said...

This is a great post. My sister is allergic to pretty much everything but none of these allergies are life-threatening. I imagine it's terrifying.

Chris said...

It is an important issue. My daughter has a peanut allergy. I remember the scary trip to the ER. Luckily, the reaction had just been mild. She has to carry an epipen to school even though it's a peanut free school. People have been good about it but of course I fear for her as she goes out into the world past elementary school.

farmlanebooks said...

I think it is an important social issue - It must be really scary to be a parent to a child with an allergy. This is a really good post - thank you for taking the time to write it.

Infant Bibliophile said...

Why didn't I think of this issue? Our baby bookworm is allergic to nuts and wheat for sure, gets violently ill from milk, has tested borderline allergic to egg, and, well, that's enough to let you know I feel your pain! I'm going to review a bunch of kids allergy books sometime, but I'm waiting until my son is a little older. We also discovered his allergies very early because of eczema. Before that, I would have thought eczema meant dry skin...whew, what a life changer allergies can be! It made me afraid to put our son in daycare, so that influenced my decision to stop working; it made us cosleep because he'd scratch until he bled; it made us keep breastfeeding long after I probably would have weaned, etc. etc.. I've already written enough, but I just wanted to say kudos to you for picking this topic. :) PS I wrote a little about our son's allergies here

Marg said...

Infant Bibliophile, I found it interesting that your son was diagnosed because of his exzcma (sp!) because my child had that when he was a baby and there was never any discussion about allergies. The possibility of asthma was mentioned but not allergies.

Infant Bibliophile said...

Hi Marg,
From what I understand, eczema/allergies/asthma are all linked (praying we avoid the asthma! did have one encounter with it but hoping it was a one-time thing because his lungs hadn't fully matured). It seems like pediatricians are all over the map with their knowledge and ability to treat allergies. Ours insisted through months of colic-type discomfort and increasingly awful eczema and cradle cap that it was all "normal" and would go away on its own. But we demanded a referral to an allergist when the eczema got really bad, like (yuck) bleeding eyelids type bad! I guess it's hard because a lot of kids just have bouts of eczema. PS -- I can never spell it either!

Julie P. said...

We have the whole bunch -- food allergies, asthma, and eczema. From what I understand, eczema is most commonly caused by food allergies. The eczema is actually what first allerted me to the potential for food allergies b/c I gave him formula once and he was covered in a rash.